Artists are whores


Adele Bertei on art, the underclass, and truths in memoirs @ ArtSlant.Artists are whores, the lot of us, selling a bit of our souls in every work. And not unlike our sisters and brothers in the biblical sense of the word, we like to think we might offer our takers a glimpse of eternity. Even the most hermetic of painters, writers, performers and poets go a’whoring each time they bless their handlers to feed a work to the public for profit. Even the eensiest profit. Okay, less so for poets. But to say that memoir is whoring more so than any other art form is like saying the lifeblood of Picasso is absent from Guernica, or the avenues of Scorcese’s heart are not on display in Taxi Driver. All of great art, in a sense, is memoir, for is it not about personal truths and the way the artist sees? I was recently witness to Gordon Lish going on about memoir being cheap and whorish. “Write a memoir and you’re finished!”, he railed. I wonder what Nabokov would say to that? Although he commenced writing what would become his memoir Speak, Memory, and Lolita during the same period of time, the former debuted in 1951 followed by Lolita in 1955.The best of memoir can turn the experiences and memories of a life, of a particular vision into work that often takes us through a dark journey to ultimately expose the shimmering there which spellbinds us all.Aside from not being fraudulent, why must there be literary rules at all concerning the way we tell our stories? An account of life is either compelling and well-writ, or it is not. Let the public judge, but give us more of what we need: stories about the people who make up the majority of this country. The workers, the dreamers, the fallen who demand their day with the beauty and heartbreak of their tales, despite the cultural hegemony (as in Gramsci, not Lenin). And in terms of memoir being cheap whoring, I don’t know a man who wears his pants down around his ankles as much as Mr. Lish, in his fiction and otherwise. Endearingly so at times (if the thought doesn’t horrify you), but, more